As Christmas bells rang and New Year’s champagne was poured across the small island and U.S. territory of Guam, family members of Task Force Guam soldiers celebrated a little easier knowing their loved ones were packing their duffel bags in Afghanistan for the return trip home.
Redeployment for Task Force Guam’s 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment, began in mid-December, marking the end of the largest deployment for the National Guard unit, which has been in existence since only 1981. The Guam National Guard currently has about 1,300 soldiers, and nearly half of them were deployed overseas for the past nine months. The guard unit is set to be fully redeployed back to the island by mid-January.
“Everyone is in good spirits because we executed a successful mission,” said Capt. Gordon Guerrero, public affairs officer and security officer for Task Force Guam.
The task force, which had units dispersed strategically throughout all regional commands, performed a variety of tasks while in Afghanistan. They conducted security escort missions in Kabul, as well as “guardian angel” missions for high-level commanders meeting with Afghan security forces. As 2014 approached and NATO units prepared to hand off responsibility to the Afghan army and police, the Guam guard played an import role in securing the country’s capital.
With so much time spent “outside the wire,” contact with insurgents came early. In May, just one month into the start of their deployment, the unit lost two soldiers in a car bomb attack outside their base in Kabul. Spc. Dwayne Flores, 22, and Sgt. Eugene Aguon, 23, were killed in the attack. The deaths were big news in Guam.
“Of course we still think of our brothers that we lost. They’ll always be with us, and will always be on our minds,” Guerrero said.
Because the island is such a tight-knit place, the troops can expect the warmest of welcomes back home, Guerrero said.
“Guam’s a very small community, so everybody felt our absence, so when we return, we’re going to feel whole again,” he said. “Everybody is going to be with family and friends, and our little community will feel like one whole family again.”
The soldiers will all make their way through Kyrgyzstan, to the United States for demobilization, and then onward to Guam.